Feel free to post questions or comments on this new blog about Birding in and around Barcelona and Catalonia, Spain. Although currently still in progress, I have uploaded Trip Reports up until November 2010... with videos and month-by-month 'quick look' summaries still to come. Stephen Christopher

Saturday, 30 April 2011

April in Catalonia: The migrants just keep coming!

April 2010 - Catalonia, Spain

"It was well worth putting up with the nausea on the ferry to get the fantastic week's birding that you organised!!"  Sandra Davies, UK

April began where March left off with this Spotted Crake and at least one Little Crake still present on The Llobregat Delta as I write on the 13th.  And I also had three Little Crakes (one male) in The Aiguamolls de L'Emporda on the 12th.

I had my first local Common Cuckoo in The Garraf Massis on the 1st and, from that moment, the chain of first arrivals around Barcelona has brought Pied Flycatcher and Little Bittern (3rd), Collared Pratincole (6th, photo below), Great Reed Warbler and Wood Warbler (9th), and Bee-eater, Nightingale and an (unremarkable) Siberian Chiffchaff, sub-species tristis, singing on the 10th.  This photo was taken by Ferran Lopez Sanz, who discovered it the day before.

Garganey, Common Redstart, Northern Wheatear, various heads of Yellow Wagtail and thousands of waders including Temminck's Stint and Marsh Sandpiper, have continued to hang around and pass through, with a high count of 600 Little Gull off the coast of Barcelona throughout the second week of April especially worth a mention.  As is the presumably last Gannet diving off the Garraf coast on the 3rd.

The 17th proved to be the day of the year I always look forward to, when two year-first Ortolan Bunting fed a few metres away as I nibbled on a sandwich in the Garraf Hills.  And two days later, on the 19th, a late Chaffinch, a couple of Bonelli's Eagles and finally, after searching the whole 10,000 km2 of the Natural Park, this lone Turtle Dove was found sat in a tree by my house!


This very approachable Great Spotted Cuckoo captured on the Llobregat on 9th, joins a host of species such as Purple Heron, Red-rumped Swallow, Bonelli's Warbler, Woodchat Shrike and Whiskered Tern that have all settled themselves in by now.  Squacco Heron, Black-eared Wheatear and Sub-alpine Warbler, which always sets the blood racing, are still trickling into the region.

And a thrilling day on the 22nd, when I had to enlist the help of the local warden to fast-jeep me across the Ca L'Arana beach to a viewing tower where I watched in awe as more than 150 Yelkouan Shearwater were circling and feeding in two loose groups low over the Mediterranean.  They were joined on the fringes by a handful of Common Scoter and, amongst the throngs, a half-dozen Northern Gannets and a pirating Arctic Skua!  And all that just after a passing male Ferruginous Duck had been picked out through a gap in the reeds.  One of the best hours of the year so far!

Nest-building Penduline Tit, more Bonelli's Eagle (including an immature), frisky Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush competing for rock space and singing Moustached Warbler all fight not to be upstaged by the new arrivals whilst some, like the summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe below, merely change their outfit to attract attention.  A terrible photo but what a bird this is.

This Lesser Kestrel above, along with Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Black-eared Wheatear and Spectacled Warbler, had all established themselves by the time I made my first Spring visit to The Steppes on the 8th April, with a pair of the latter even nest-building.

But the highlight today was the real reason for my visit and a day-time singing (as they usually do at this site) Dupont's Lark, walking along the path in front of me, would have kept me smiling for the rest of the day even if I hadn't also had the usual Little Bustard, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and Black-belied Sandgrouse, all in the same field at one point, along with Stone-curlew and year-first Short-toed Lark and Whinchat.

However, a return trip on 15th April, besides a pair of year-first passing Tree Pipit, witnessed the remarkable scene of a pair of displaying Black-shouldered Kite with the birds even disappearing into a nearby likely-looking tree.  Subsequent events were to reveal possibly three breeding pairs for the region and a very promising outlook for the future.


A trip to the Aiguamolls, on the 12th, saw six Collared Pratincole and three Egyptian Geese sitting out the rain on El Mata, where I also found 12 Whimbrel, a pair of Little Crake and, overhead, a constant string of hundreds and hundreds of Common Swifts heading north.  Along the edges, apparently uninterested in my soaking appearance standing before them, Sedge Warbler (below), Moustached Warbler, Sub-alpine Warbler and a solitary Linnet all sang their hearts out oblivious.

Two Nightingale were singing, or practicing at least, in other parts of the reserve, one at Cortalet, with a nearby year-first Melodious Warbler doing likewise and a Wryneck joined in briefly.  On the water, a pair of Northern Lapwing and a few Eurasian Wigeon put in a reminder for winter but a lone rare Ferruginous Duck stole the show.

Finally, a quick stop off at the Estany Europa produced yet another Little Crake and a single Marsh Sandpiper and a Rose-ringed Parakeet cawing.

But I wasn't able to return for the regular passage of Red-throated Pipit (below) in the north of Catalunya until the 20th, when at least six birds were present, with the show continuing at least until the 26th.

The other main year-first target for the 20th was the Western Orphean Warbler, which was easily located on every trip through the summer in The Cap de Creus from this day forth.  Today, I was saved a bit of leg work with two competing birds singing close to the car.  And another highlight for the day was around 100 Balearic Shearwater active around the Cap itself.

Two end-of-the-month trips to The Pyrenees, on the 28th and 30th, produced not only the usual bag of Lammergeier, Citril Finch, Alpine Chough, Black Woodpecker, Honey-buzzard, etc. but good numbers of year-first (Rufous-tailed) Rock Thrush.

And sandwiched between them, on the 29th in The Ebro Delta, quite remarkably my only White-winged Tern of the year!!  What's going on?

"Thanks for a great day's birding, especially the two Bonelli's species.  We'll be in touch again."

Derek Gifford and Janet Hale, UK

"Got home on Saturday and am now reading through my Spanish bird lists with a big grin on my face.
A big thank you again for the best introduction to European birding - I'm hooked now!  Simply cannot decide on the best day of the week; every trip offered something unique."

Sandra Davies, UK (April and May)

"What more could I add to what Sandra wrote!  My feelings were very similar.  If I had to pick two destinations it would be the Pyrenees and the Steppes, however the birding on the coast and elsewhere was brilliant!  So no favourite then."
John Maddock, UK (April and May)

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